Brick Lane

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Brick Lane Movie Poster Image
Weighty tearjerker with mature themes.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A husband takes his wife for granted and expects her to wait on him hand and foot (literally). Some heated exchanges between a teen girl and her father, which could be construed as disrespectful and downright nasty. A married woman has an affair.

Violence

The threat of violence hangs over parts of the movie, but nothing gory or bloody happens. Scenes from the 9-11 terrorist attacks are shown, such as the planes' moments of impact into the World Trade Center. A few scenes hint at the anger and rage that befall those who are disenfranchised; some shouting and tense moments between parents and their children.

Sex

A married woman has an affair -- the trysts occur in the home she shares with her husband. No outright nudity, but implied sexual movements/action. Some flirting.

Language

Language includes "s--t," an isolated use of "f--k," and some words that could be construed as derogatory toward certain nationalities.

Consumerism

A TV channel logo is displayed when the news is broadcast in some scenes. Labels include Brother, Singer sewing machines, and a denim company.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few scenes of social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this powerful, thought-provoking drama -- which isn't too likely to be on teens' radar -- doesn't have much in the way of graphic nudity, swearing, or violence, it's fairly adult when it comes to its themes. It explores infidelity, terrorism, prejudice, arranged marriages, the immigrant experience, and tenuous parent-child relationships. It's unflinching in its portrayals of these issues, and their reality can be harsh.

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What's the story?

To the beloved sister she left behind in Bangladesh, Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is the adventurer sent to London to marry an educated man. But little do they know how small her world really is. She lives in the projects and rarely leaves her apartment, except to run errands for her family. Her much-older husband, Chanu (Satih Kausik), is indeed learned, but his knowledge is limited to books, and real life doesn't mesh well with his self-image. He loves Nazneen but cares more about how she serves his needs, and they don't have much in common besides their two daughters. When Chanu loses his job, scuttling plans to return home, Nazneen starts sewing for money, a decision that impacts her life in ways no one would have expected. With a post-9/11 world as a backdrop, Nazneen finally begins to explore life.

Is it any good?

What first seems like a predictable plot is quickly proven otherwise, bolstered by strong performances from nearly the entire cast. BRICK LANE (which is based on the same-named novel by Monica Ali) manages to take on ambitious topics -- love, poverty, feminism, immigration, even terrorism -- and transform them into an evocative, intimate viewing experience. Chatterjee does much with little: Nazneen doesn't have that many lines, but when she has something to say, it's potent. Just the look on her face when she's remembering a rare moment of bliss speaks volumes.

That said, the film takes a meandering route to explore what love means -- and what being a mother entails -- and a few spots don't ring true, starting with the stereotypical portrayal of a usurer. And in the end, when Nazneen appears to finally realize whom she loves, and how, the revelation is hollow. (It doesn't help that the film sets up the man she loves as a fairly pitiful, even laughable, character.) And although theoretically Nazneen's sister is a major character, because she's seen only in flashes, in no time, she almost seems unnecessary. And she's definitely not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about complicated parent-child relationships. Did any of the scenes in the movie resonate? How do relationships change as children get older and become more independent? Families can also discuss some of the issues that the movie deals with. What do teens think about the idea of arranged marriage? How does their view compare to the one presented in the movie? Can you think of other movies that offer close-up looks at worlds as specific and -- to Western minds, anyway -- unusual as the one here? Are Nazneen's decisions believable?

Movie details

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